Consultation sessions on water plan

The Otago Regional Council has organised a series of drop-in sessions to discuss how the current water plan is working, and proposed plan change 1D.

Council director policy, planning and resource management Fraser McRae says  the council is working to improve how the Otago Water Plan manages river flow requirements through conditions on consents to take water.

Through a proposed plan change 1D, over flow requirements for water takes, the council aimed to clarify:

● When a residual flow — a flow of water to remain in a river — was required.

● How to determine what that residual flow should be.

● The values the residual flow would provide for.

● The relationship between residual flows and minimum flows (catchment-wide restrictions in low flow conditions).

This review could affect  consent holders if they:

● Held a permit to take water, especially from a tributary.

● Might have to apply for a water permit in the future.

● Were interested in "water bodies or the flora/fauna that call them home".

A report on  the proposed plan change was tabled at a council policy committee meeting last week. In that report, Mr McRae said  the change was intended to clarify matters, particularly over residual flows linked to tributaries.

Anyone could have a say on changes to setting flow requirements for water takes, and "we welcome any ideas about how they can work better in the future," he said this week.

At last week’s meeting, some councillors, including Cr Carmen Hope, of Middlemarch, and Cr Graeme Bell, of Alexandra, said they had received several phone calls from ratepayers concerned and confused by aspects of the proposed plan change.

Cr Hope this week urged anyone with questions to attend the drop-in sessions.

And Cr Bell said ratepayers who had contacted him were also keen for more formal consultation meetings to be held, at which council staff  would indicate what was envisaged and landholders could discuss matters more fully.

Council chairman Stephen Woodhead said consultation was at an early stage and councillors would  be discussing the matters further, including at a council workshop. The community consultation starts with public drop-in sessions next week, all at 1pm to 3pm and  6.30pm to 8pm.

These sessions begin in Oamaru at the Brydone Hotel next Monday  and continue at the Ranfurly Bowling Club next Tuesday,  the Cromwell Sports Club next Wednesday, Arrowtown Bowling Club next Thursday  and Balclutha St John rooms next Friday. This round of sessions will end at the Dunedin Public Library the following Monday, February 27, with two sessions, from 1pm-3pm and 6pm-7.30pm.

This is the first of three planned stages of consultation before any proposed plan change to manage water take/flow requirements is notified. Stages two and three will be in April and June, and a change to setting flow requirements will be presented to the community later in the year.

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